Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Reminding myself why I don't do gyms

Monday was a rather busy day, and I had a lot planned. First on my list was to go to the Pavillion which is like a YMCA/community fitness center equipped with a pool, a variety of classes, and a fitness room. When I signed up to join last year, I mainly went for the pool, so I could do pool running in place of my land runs.

I officially started going back there last week, mainly because I wanted to cross train which is kind of ironic, because I find most stationary equipment incredibly boring. However, since something happens with my right knee after I hit a certain amount of time into my runs, I figured it would be good to give my 'ole body a little break on hard surfaces.

I've never had any problems going to the Pavillion. It's a mixed crowd there with a variety of ages and sizes. Everyone is mostly doing their own thing, so I felt fairly comfortable going. Monday morning was a different story. I decided to test myself on the dreadmill aka treadmill. This is in itself a feat, as I find myself counting the seconds until the time is up.

I got on the machine, set the workout, and started running. To the left of me, there was a woman probably 20? or so years older than me walking. Yes, I noticed how thin she was and the fact that she was wearing jeans and a long sleeve shirt. It really didn't help that she lifted her arms a couple of times either so her shirt rose. I overheard her talk to another girl who asked how much longer she was going to be on there. Her reply "another hour or so." No clue how long she was on there previously to me getting there, but the "another" implicates maybe she had been on there for awhile perhaps.

Though I found this all a little disturbing, what bothered me more was that she kept looking over at me. I don't know what she was looking at--my time, my distance, my speed, my pretty, sweaty face? She did this a number of times during my workout, and it left me feeling very UNCOMFORTABLE. I don't know if there was a hidden competitiveness, intrigue, or what. But I wanted to shout, "Look lady, keep your eyes off me and my machine." And I am rarely the type to ever even consider saying something like that to someone.

As soon as my run was over, I stepped off that machine and finished the rest of my workout on the elliptical, sighing in relief. This was just an odd experience for me. I have never been a gym rat type of person and have always minded my own business. Certainly, I notice how long people might be on a machine as I'm sure other people might have of me, but I don't constantly look at them or feel competitive with them. Maybe it is one reason why I just don't do gyms--always afraid of being "measured up."

How do those of you who to gyms handle this? Does this bother you?


Lisa said...

It took a very long time for me to work up the courage to go to the gym. It was over the summer, and thankfully it was a smaller student gym that was never full. When the school year started, I tried going really early so I wouldn't be able to compare myself with anyone else. By the time it got too cold to do that, I was better able to handle working out in front of people. There are still times when I compare myself to other people, but I try to distract myself with magazines or the view, which is lovely.

Cammy said...

I agree. Exercise is definitely my "drug of choice," and in high school I was at the YMCA so much that they called the police to go to my house and check on me when I didn't show up for two days in a row (TRUE STORY), but now I avoid gyms like the plague. I get the ickies about sharing machines, and I am also paranoid about "panel peekers," those people that try to read my numbers, it definitely makes me more likely to push myself more than I should. Also, I am always worried someone will be on "my" machine. And I have a crazy schedule so it's just a pain to have to take the time to go somewhere else to work out.

There is a really good book that is sort of an comedic ethnography of the gym called 'The Locker Room Diaries,' it does a good job of covering some heavy issues in a light-hearted way without being glib or patronizing.

Tiptoe said...

Thanks for the feedback.
Lisa, I try to avoid when I know the place is really busy which is mostly evenings during the week. The rest of the time, it's not bad at all. And it took me awhile to go there in the first place as well.

Cammy, yes, I remember that story with the cop coming to your house. I totally agree with you on the "peanl peekers" and people being on "my" machine. I get that way as well.

I've thought about reading Locker Room Diaries, and in general, I do like Goldman's posts on her blog. Some of the reviews were mixed about the book, but I guess you get that with everything. I'll have to pick it up sometime and see what I think.

Anonymous said...

I am no longer a gym goer, at least not for the moment. There was a time when a large section of my day revolved around the treadmill! I think I was always so paranoid about my appearance, that I assumed everyone was staring at me and judging me anyway, so whether they actually were or not was never clear.

I try to stay away from that sort of environment at the moment. I'd say that was more because I cannot exercise moderation or restraint when it comes to working out, than from concerns of people looking at me. I think I could probably handle complete strangers, but once I got to know someone, I think I would begin to compete with them, especially if I suspected they felt the same...

Anonymous said...

I have been a long-time enemy of all things gym. I joined a gym a few years ago when I was the 300lb girl making the machines moan and squeak. (If that isn't character building, I don't know what is!) And I hate it when people are staring, trying to size you up and "compete". I guess it's some sort of validation for their hard work, a motivation of sorts. But it's rude. I suppose that's one reason many gyms now have TVs hooked up to almost every machine? Hmm.

Oh, and "dreadmill" is a fantastic word, btw.

Ai Lu said...

I am also an ex-gymrat, and like you, Tiptoe, find the treadmill to be one of the most boring contraptions in the world.

I know that in many cases it is next to impossible to tell if someone has an eating disorder just by looking at that person, but gyms tend to attract a higher-than-average number of people like that, and I don't find it much fun to hand out with that crowd anymore. When I see someone spending more than an hour on a machine, a bell goes off in my head, because I used to do that myself; it's easier to recognize the signs in others, having been there myself.

As for the other woman on the machine -- she was downright rude, staring at you! Sometimes it seems like common manners go out the window when people get into the gym, as if the see-and-be-seen attitude takes over and wipes away any thought of allowing someone their privacy. I actually don't mind lifting weights from time to time, but I usually avoid it at the gym because I hate to be stared at by the men lurking in the weight room. Sigh.

Tiptoe said...

Lola, it sounds like right now the gym is NOT a good place for you. Glad you're not visiting them. Yes, it can be more difficult when you actually know someone. I think it all depends on someone's intentions.

Gutsinarut, Tvs were probably hooked up for part of that reason and to keep people entertained too. Of course, I always find it interesting, because half the time, it's either news, the food network, or some cooking show. Seriously.

Unfortunately, I can't say I coined the dreadmill term but man, that's certainly what that treadmill feels to me.

Ai Lu, very true, it is hard to discern whether someone may have an ED or not, though gyms seem to gravitate towards that population. But then, again, maybe it depends on the gym too? Whenever I go, I usually don't diagnosis, just observe.

You're right that privacy concerns and simple coureteousness seem to go out the window, both alike in genders.

Anonymous said...

The gym can be a very triggering place for me. The diet pill ads on the TVs, the uber-thin runners that seem to spend their entire day on the treadmill, and yes, the awkwardness of it all. It does bother me. Sometimes my obsession with burning calories will creep in and then I wonder if going to the gym really is that great. It's my primary form of exercise, though, so for now I'm still going.

Tiptoe said...

Charlynn, I agree with you on all aspects. Right now, I'm just using it for cross training purposes but still I find myself at times deciding to go longer and harder.

november blue said...

Ah, the gym. Just thinking about it gets my ED juices flowing. Everything "off limits" in my regular life is there - a scale, the trashy skinny-loving magazine full of diet advice, plenty of bodies to ogle and compare myself too, and the opportunity to immediately "punish" myself for any recent food-related sins. All in all, not the best place for me...I avoided for a year and recently re-joined. I know it's not helping me resume my recovery lifestyle but I love it too much.

Tiptoe, for me the gym danger is not so much what other people are thinking or doing as what I am. Hope you can balance health and wellness a bit better than me in that environment.

Tiptoe said...

November Blue, thanks for sharing your reminiscences about gyms. I agree they can be highly triggering places. I hope you are able to at least keep things in check. I know once you're in that environment it is hard though. Best luck to you.

As for this place, it's a little more community oriented, so I'm hoping that will help not be too triggering. Hopefully, I can keep the balance!